How Is Fault Determined?
- March 29, 2017
The primary objective of any personal injury lawsuit revolves around proving that the defendant was liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. Determining liability is the primary objective in all personal injury claims. In order for the plaintiff to be successful in proving their claim, they must be able to somehow how that the defendant acted in a negligent manner. Negligence is a legal term which describes the actions of another party who did something wrong or not doing something they were required to do, such as treating a patient.
Determining Who is Legally Liable For Damages
In order to be successful in winning the case, the plaintiff’s attorney must be able to prove that the defendant was negligent. Negligence is when one party fails to use reasonable care resulting in an injury to another person. There are four legal elements that must be proven, which include the following:
• Duty of Care—The plaintiff was owed a duty of care because there was a relationship between the defendant and the plaintiff. This can be described as a doctor/patient relationship or between a consumer and the product manufacturer. If the consumer purchased a defective product, the manufacturer could be held legally liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.
• Breach of Duty—A breach of duty occurs when the defendant failed to take action to remedy the situation or they acted in a careless or reckless manner. In a premises liability case, the owner may have breached their duty if they failed to keep the premises safe for their customers.
• Proximate Cause—The plaintiff’s attorney must be able to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. For example, if a physician prescribed a medication to a patient who is pregnant at the time that causes harm to the unborn child, they are more likely than not to be the direct cause of injury to the child.
• Damages Owed—Once liability has been established, the next step is to determine what amount of damages the plaintiff is entitled to receive. Both the type and amount of damages will depend upon a variety factors, including the severity of the injury and whether the victim will be able to return to work.
California’s Comparative Negligence Rule
The key factor in personal injury law requires the ability to determine which party is negligent. This establishes fault and whoever is found to be liable will end up paying damages. It becomes more complicated when figuring out how blame is assigned. The State of California follows the legal theory of pure comparative negligence. A percentage of fault is assigned to each party responsible. For example, an individual is texting while walking through the grocery store. Wet produce is clearly visible on the floor but the person slips and falls anyway because they were not watching where they were going. They would be partially responsible for the slip and fall injury claim. Pure comparative negligence allows the injured person to collect damages. However, the compensation is then reduced by the amount they were at fault. If the claimant is suing for $20,000 but he or she is 50 percent to blame, they can only recover $10,000 in damages.
Types of Damages You Can Recover
The plaintiff’s damages may include both compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory damages are both economic and non-economic. Economic damages are losses that include lost wages, loss of future income and medical expenses. Non-economic damages are non-monetary losses that include:
• Damages for pain and suffering
• Mental anguish
• Physical impairment
• Loss of companionship
• Loss of enjoyment of life
• Loss of consortium (disruption of the marriage relationship caused by injury)
Compensatory damages are paid to help the plaintiff recover costs for medical bills, lost wages, property damage and pain and suffering. In some cases, the victim may be entitled to punitive damages if they can prove that the defendant acted in a willful and wanton manner, with complete disregard for the consequences of their actions. Punitive damages are primarily a mechanism used to punish the offender for their outrageous behavior, and hit them in the pocketbook where it counts the most.
Consult a California Personal Injury Lawyer
In all personal injury claims, proving that the defendant is responsible for the victim’s injuries can be an extremely complicated process. It is important to hire an experienced personal injury attorney who has been successful in obtaining compensation for their clients.